SOUTH AFRICA PRODUCTION: Introduction - South Africa has come a long way since the dark days of Apartheid

South Africa has come a long way since the dark days of Apartheid, and the growth of its film industry is one manifestation of that. For more than a decade, film makers have enjoyed its versatility and low costs.

In this report, we look at all that this country has to offer - locations, creative talent and production facilities - and find out how it is striving to maintain the popularity it has worked to achieve.

A little-known fact about South Africa is its long legacy of film-making. The first ever newsreels were shot in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War at the turn of the previous century, while in 1916, the magnate IW Schlesinger founded Killarney Studios, producing 43 movies in just six years.

Although South Africa hasn't gone on to develop a strong feature film industry - partly a result of the Apartheid regime, which meant it had limited access to international markets - its commercials production industry is world renowned.

Just ten years after the first democratic elections, South Africa has become one of the world's leading shoot destinations. With stunning and incredibly diverse locations, glorious weather, a strong production infrastructure and experienced crews, not to mention a favourable exchange rate, it's little wonder that the global ad industry flocks to its shores.

The number of commercials shot in Cape Town, the centre of the commercials production industry, rose more than 66 per cent last year, with 500 shot in total.

But although the industry is booming, how long can it last? With rising costs, many overseas clients are now opting for cheaper alternatives such as Argentina and Mexico. So has the flavour of the month turned sour?

We look at what South Africa is doing to remain competitive in our feature on page 5, as well as looking at key new initiatives regarding regulation and training.

But South Africa is also notable for a strong local creative industry.

Visiting the country, I was struck by the innovative and "can-do" attitude prevalent in many creative departments. Despite limited budgets and several clients thinking they have to replace their previously separatist approach to advertising with an unsophisticated "one-size-fits-all" formula, the work seemed fresh, confident and surprising. Our feature (p8) uncovers some of the best new work around.

South Africa is also a breeding ground for new directing talent (p10), aided by strong local scripts and an advanced production infrastructure.

Agencies, working to tighter budgets, are also willing to choose cheaper new directors over their more experienced counterparts.

Cape Town's scenery is breathtaking, but some are asking if its locations are exhausted, as that same old stretch of road is used for the umpteenth car commercial. However, our research proves that there are plenty of hidden gems (p13).

Finally, the Director's Survival Guide (p14-15) is a must-read for all those planning to shoot in South Africa, listing the top teams you should aim to work with. And, of course, at the end of a long shoot, you need nothing more than a raucous wrap party, so let our guide inspire you.

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